KJ Hannah Greenberg
and Seth Leamer

Seth Leamer
Inspiration piece

Kaorog’s Companion
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

Kaorog regarded his tentacles. They were turning purple. Whereas that hue was lovely, it was, simultaneously, an indicator of illness. Physical maladies, as all of the denizens of his world knew, derived from unbalanced emotions.

He scanned the lobe, which was located above his beak, and which was responsible for his feelings, to discover the cause of his condition. He was sad. In fact, the mollusk was miserable. The pet with which Tarog had gifted him had died.

The creature hadn’t seemed broken when it had arrived. More accurately, when Kaorog had received it in a sealed carton, along with an instruction booklet (which Kaorog suspected that Tarog had scripted), it had seemed unspoiled.

At the time, Kaorog had merely skimmed the booklet’s pages given that he had been so excited about owning a wee one. He had, thereafter, flashed red and yellow for a long time. Ordinarily, only the most popular members of his consortium possessed such companions. That is, only youths high among the social echelons could coerce others of their kind to obtain those small, encased mammals for them.

Fortunately for Kaorog, Tarog, who was neither an outcast nor the most popular fish, that is, she was a fairly typical female, had a crush on him. Consequently, although Kaorog knew that he was taking advantage of her by accepting her unsolicited gift, he also believed that he was not manipulating her. Meaning, the little monster that Tarog had presented to him was his to keep without any interchange. Irrespective, Kaorog’s buddy, Brog, had had to remind Kaorog to take the pet to the consortium’s exotic animal doctor.

When Kaorog had done as much, he had been scolded by that specialist. Apparently, removing little brutes from their shiny, glass-fronted vessels, even for a moment or two, can kill them—the atmosphere which Kaorog and his kin took for granted remains lethal to outworlders.

Even had he known about that problem beforehand, it’s likely Kaorog wouldn’t have been able to prevent himself from exposing his two-legged friend—he had quite desperately wanted to touch the miniature beast. After all, fluffies were alleged to be therapeutic and Kaorog needed much healing as Tarog had tried, multiple times, to cuddle him.

Yet, when he had hoisted his manikin beyond the lid of its home, that little critter had turned blue and had nearly stopped breathing. Hastily, Kaorog had stuffed it back into its box. For almost a sun space, Kaorog had refused to even look at it. Besides, that pet was nothing more than a leftover from some lowly octopi’s harvests.

More exactly, every so often, tinned lunches were sent to their quadrant. Most of his peers had never weighed why such nibbles were sent to them or who was sending them. What’s more, most of those adolescents cared little that the metal-wrapped tasties were supposed to be harvested only by the impoverished. Individuals whom felt entitled also culled them. Tarog, for example, had styled herself as a being that deserved those delicacies.

Kaorog sighed. His purple tinge remained. He next reflected on Brog’s warning.

“Never saw one before. But remember, food can’t be your chum.” Brog had cautioned Kaorog before directing him to the vet.

Tarog, contrariwise, had furnished Kaorog with no suitable counsel. Rather, upon presenting the critter to Kaorog, she had simply twitted something about food serving as a way to a potential mate’s heart. Kaorog had been bewildered by her remark because he knew that both his heart and his crop sat within the security of his mantel, but he could not imagine how they might be associated.

Regardless of Tarog or Brog’s sentiments, Kaorog’s animal shriveled. Hours after being restored to its sealable container, it had shed its skin. It had sloughed both its lower and its upper layers of blue, leaving only a funny, bubble-like casing, which covered its mantel.

Most worrisome was that no new blue layers grew over the tiny fiend’s appendages. Worse, the pet had picked off the row of shiny bits that had been part of its upper body;s covering and had tried to eat them. It had retched horribly.

At the same time as Kaorog had considered that, perhaps, his pet was hungry, he had done nothing to address that presumption since one does not feed food. Even so, he fretted. On the one tentacle, it could be that the metal casings in which such treats arrived were a source of nutrition to them, enabling them to remain fully succulent when collected. On the other tentacle, maybe he ought to call the vet to double check if it was possible to feed food. On a third tentacle, such a call would use up more of his limited funds and would do so on a thing with anyway a life expectancy of just a few days.

Amazingly, Kaorog’s would-be snack lasted half of a week. In fact, it was only after it had eaten the stuff lining its case and had clutched its body that it had died. It was subsequent to that incident that Kaorog’s tentacles had tinted purple and that he had pushed all thoughts about his short-lived buddy out of his mind. He hadn’t even bothered to eat it.

Sometime later, Kaorog mounted the back of Tarog’s mantel. She conveyed “I told you so,” regarding their pairing, with sixteen different gestures. Subsequently, she devoured Kaorog. Despite the fact that Kaorog had successfully broken off his hectocotylus, which had remained lodged in Tarog, she had been unsated.

No matter. As per norm, Tarog died shortly after laying her eggs. Both she and Kaorog had actualized their lives’ purposes.

In any case, during the time when they yet breathed, neither of them discovered the nature of the consortium’s imported munchies. Namely, neither they nor any of their kind came to realize that they had been chowing down on mariners who had had the misfortune to be captured while exploring the oceans’ greatest depths in submersibles.

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